According to federal data, as of Friday January 22nd, more than 11 million people in the U.S. received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. And although vaccination patterns vary by state, early analysis of data from 16 states found that Latinos and Blacks are significantly lagging in vaccination even though Latinos and Blacks are dying at three times the rate of whites from COVID.
Chicago, 30% Hispanic and ranked 5th in the country in terms of Hispanic population, has administered 140,000 vaccines. Officials estimate that about 53% of those vaccinated in this city are white, while only 17% are Latino. Sadly 45.75% of Chicago’s confirmed COVID-19 cases were among Latinos and 34% of COVID-19 deaths were among Latinos. Similar shares of COVID-19 cases, deaths and vaccinations among Latinos have been found in 16 states reporting data by race/ethnicity.
What do officials attribute the disparities to? Depending on the article, source or study the reasons vary but here are some of the ones that make the most sense:
- Underrepresentation in COVID-19 vaccine trials.
- Health care disparities.
- Cities have prioritized health workers who are “diagnosing officials” such as doctors and nurses and not areas that employ more people of color such as support health care staff (health care aides, technicians, assistants, etc.).
- History of bad health care experiences and distrust of the health care system and institutions by communities of color.
- Misinformation and/or lack of access to culturally relevant information on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines.
- In Chicago they found that where you live made a great difference. People living in high-density Hispanic neighborhoods were less likely to have access to the vaccine or less likely to choose to be vaccinated.
What can we, as Latinos, do to bridge the vaccination gap?
- Increase enrollment and participation in clinical research and clinical trials.
- Push local health officials to create equitable vaccination distribution programs.
- Lead by example! Get the vaccine, encourage others to get vaccinated and highlight your story and experience to reduce fear and increase confidence in the vaccine.
- Collaborate with businesses to create and disseminate vaccination messages and content that are culturally resonant because our values and beliefs are unique and distinct from non-Hispanics.
- Enlist the support of Latino health officials as well as religious and community leaders to serve as vaccination ambassadors.
Vaccination seems to be the only path to social and economic recovery and, rather than lag, I am confident that Latinos can lead the way. If you have been fortunate enough to be vaccinated share your story!